In the early hours of March 15, 2017 at the Glenboro Health Centre, we said "Goodbye" to our husband, Dad and Grandpa; George Joseph Hutlet of Cypress River, MB. George will be ever loved by his family: wife Myrtle (Jackson) Hutlet; and his five children: Georgette Hutlet; Paul Hutlet and Joanne Reiss; Suzanne and Ron Paddock; Denis and Brenda Hutlet (grandchildren Miranda and Edward) and Joseph Hutlet (grandchildren Aaron and Nicole).
George is survived by sisters Annette Fifi and Jacqueline Hutlet, nieces and nephews, cousins, and many other relatives and friends. He was predeceased by his parents Arthur and Dorothee (Gregoire) Hutlet, infant sister Ghislaine Hutlet, sister Jeannine (Roger) Gillis, brother Gaetan (Florida) Hutlet, brother-in-law Henry Fifi, and infant niece Claire Hutlet.
Born at home on the farm SE 31-6-11, a few miles northwest of Bruxelles on November 28, 1929, George was the second child and oldest son of Arthur and Dorothee Hutlet. He attended school at the Convent in Bruxelles, in the winter staying with his Uncle Albert Hutlet's family during the week, and enjoyed playing hockey at the outdoor rink and sledding down the hill in town. He was stricken with Rheumatic fever when he was 8 years old; but easily caught up to his classmates when he returned to school. When asked, he'd say he had "half of grade 12". In reality, George completed Grade 6, then left school to work at home. Their family moved to the farm SW 9-7-12 east of Cypress River in 1945, and George lived there for almost 72 years.
George was given a broken fiddle by his uncle, Nick Messner when he was 17 years old. His dad fixed the fiddle and made a bow, and he was away! George was part of the Richmond Hill Orchestra with Pete Bereti, Ron Campbell, Isabel Barker and Bert Richmond, and played for many dances through the years. At the band's first dance in Mariapolis when George was 18, he froze, and Bert poked him from behind with his own bow and said, "if everyone down there was as smart as us, they'd be up here". Eventually, with families of their own, each went their own way; but 27 years later, in 1985, the band joined together again to perform at the Cypress River Centennial concert. George and Myrtle were members of the Tiger Hills Group with Linda Chambers, George Stevens and Maurice VanDenBussche, and played for many dances and other occasions. For several years, the Tigers were part of the Southwest Manitoba Old Time Fiddlers, playing music across the province and beyond, with proceeds directed towards charities. In 1991, George joined many of his old friends to form the Bruxelles Centennial Brass Band to perform at the Bruxelles Centennial in 1992, playing his dad's clarinet. They went on to perform for several years, including the celebration of the Bruxelles Brass Band's Centennial in 1999, Hutlet family reunions, at the Gathering of Nations, and were featured on CBC's "On The Road Again". In 2011, George and Myrtle were inducted onto the Manitoba Fiddling Wall of Fame for their contribution to fiddle music. George had several fiddles over the years but his last one made by Gerry Gaboury was his favorite.
When he was 11 years old, the first tractor George drove at harvest time was a Hart Parr 16-30 owned by his grandfather, Gustave Hutlet. One modification his Dad made to the tractor was to extend the right rear fender as the steering was close to that wheel and he feared the driver getting their leg caught in the wheel. In 1944, the year before the family left their Bruxelles farm, George drove the tractor for his last harvest on his grandfather's crew. Eventually that tractor made its way to the Manitoba Agricultural Museum near Austin, and with its long fender, was easy to find when the family visited the Museum. George was honoured in July 2015 when he had the opportunity to once again drive the little Hart Parr; through the parade at the Threshermen’s Reunion, thanks to the generosity of the Pratt and Down families. It had been 71 years since he’d last driven it, but what a lot of memories that drive brought back !
George and Myrtle were married on October 28, 1957 at St. Augustine's, in Brandon; and celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary last fall. They settled on the farm and George hauled gravel for several years, then bought a second-hand backhoe (it arrived all in pieces and he put it together) in the early 1960s when farmers and communities were installing water lines. Over the years, he custom round baled for other farmers, and eventually purchased a lathe and milling machine, and with his welder, repaired many pieces of farm equipment for himself and neighbours. During busy times on the farm, there were a lot of days George hardly left the shop as he worked to help other farmers get their equipment back into the fields. The kids harvested the crop and sometimes Dad didn't get to a field before the crop was off, and his young crew had moved to the next field. To George's amusement, a neighbor once said he'd never seen so many vehicles or pieces of equipment on a farm operated by so many different people. He built a stock trailer, seed/fertilizer wagon, calf shelters, bale trailers and truck box for his own use; and eventually built items for other farmers. He enjoyed travelling through the countryside seeing the items he built in use.
Dad taught us to catch grain "on the fly" at harvest, how to harness old Croppie to the stoneboat, and to keep your feet together when you're moving hogs. He enjoyed following an old family tradition of smoking hams and bacon in his smokehouse, fresh bread, mom's homemade butter and Pâté de foie, good music and good friends. He didn't think much of all the lights turned on when you weren't in the room, having your hands in your pockets when you were moving livestock, suits and ties, tools that weren't returned to the proper place, wearing seatbelts, and telephone surveys at mealtimes.
The farm always had a herd of cattle; George was partial to Herefords, and he owned one of the last farms in the area to continuously have horses since it was homesteaded. Over the years many other animals called the farm "home", including tame turkeys, shetland and hackney ponies, wild turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, pheasants and sheep; and the hogs were a mainstay for many years. As a child, he raised pigeons. Dad's heart was in farming, and he enjoyed watching the seasons change. He liked his Oliver and Ford tractors, and in the last few years, he'd take the old IHC 1086 tractor and 914 combine to the fields just to prove they could still do the job. He bought that combine new in 1978 from Helgason & Arason. His first new grain truck, a blue Chevy 3-ton was purchased in 1975, is still running, and dad would say the old equipment was all he needed to take off the crop.
Every farmer needs a half ton truck, as long as it is a GM. Dad said you didn't need a 4-wheel drive truck if you knew how to drive properly, and got great satisfaction being able to pull a stuck 4-wheel drive truck out with his truck. We could always use Dad's truck, as long as we asked first - he wasn't happy when he needed that truck and it was gone! During our teen years, Dad could pretty well tell who'd last driven his truck by how far the seat was moved back, and how loud the radio was when he turned the key. Advice he offered his kids: "always keep the top half of your fuel tank full", "drive according to the conditions" and "if you get a speeding ticket, I'm not paying for it!" He was still offering these bits of wisdom a month ago! Dad had many half tons over the years but his last, a 2004 black Chevy with over 470,000 kms was his favorite. He spent many hours in that truck, travelling the back roads to view the crops and check on the cattle, and was in town a few times each day. He said he drove slowly because he now had time to enjoy the view. He was a good driver; his first solo driving trip was when he was 12 years old; driving their 1927 Chevy into Bruxelles to pick up groceries at Doyon's store.
There was nothing George enjoyed more than visiting, telling stories and a few jokes. He was excited to be a Grandpa, and taught the grandkids how to open Grandma's cupboard to find the pots that made the most noise when hit with a wooden spoon. Miranda, Aaron, Edward and Nicole meant the world to Grandpa; he loved their visits, and their photos are on the sun visor in his truck. He enjoyed travelling but always said the best part was coming home. George spent many hours flying with Martin Anderson, a particularly memorable trip was flying on a Sunday morning to Brandon for a Pepsi; he also enjoyed travelling on trains and by Greyhound. He kept a set of binoculars in the tractor and scanned the sky for Air Canada vapour trails, he pretty well knew what time the flights would be overhead. When in Brandon, he went to the airport to watch the WestJet flights come in and leave. As soon as he heard the planes spraying crops, he'd be off to watch them. George and Myrtle travelled to the west coast, as far east as Montreal, and several vacations in the United States.
George was a hard worker, putting in long hours each day during his younger years. Whatever you did, you should do it properly. He preferred being an hour early rather than a minute late. He set a good example for his family, and those are big shoes to fill.
A few years ago George was diagnosed with Emphysema, which eventually prevented him from doing many of the activities he enjoyed; work most of all. Though poor health slowed him down, it didn't stop him. On cold days this past winter, he enjoyed many phone visits with Bill and Anna Stephens in Ontario, life-long friend Ron Campbell in Winnipeg, and cousins Norm Gregoire in Winnipeg and Remi Messner in Killarney. In his last few weeks at home, he attended a cattle sale, was at the rink for the bonspiel, checked out the work in progress on the bridge north of Holland, visited relatives and friends, entertained with his fiddle music at the Notre Dame care home, went on parts-runs, bought a harmonica, attended a memorial service for fellow fiddler, Norman Cheyne, and drove to Brandon for Ag Days where he marveled at the size of the new equipment. Most of all, he loved going to town and would visit with friends and neighbours in front of the post office and grocery store, dropping in at the garages, picking up the Brandon Sun, and keeping up to date with all the happenings.
George was admitted to the hospital on February 24th, due to lung failure. There he told Paul and Denis he wouldn't be able to help them much when he got home. He looked forward to meeting Suzanne's donkey babies each spring, was always interested in Joe's work projects and spent hours watching fiddling videos on youtube with Georgette. He looked forward to a visit from his Poncelet cousins: Léo & Hannelore, and Gisèle & Joe later this month, and attending the spring induction of his uncle Nick Messner onto the Fiddling Wall of Fame. We had 19 days to say our goodbyes before he passed away on March 15th; and reflect on his life well lived; his opportunity over 87 years to see changes in agriculture and technology, and the many people who were important in his life. His passing has changed our lives forever.
Mass of the Christian Burial to celebrate George's life was held at the St. Gerard Majella Roman Catholic Church, Bruxelles MB, on Saturday March 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm with Father Jose Montepeque as Celebrant. George and Myrtle's music was played at 12:30pm, Rosary was said by Annette Verniest at 12:45pm. Readings were by friends Alvin DePauw and Germaine VanDenBussche and cousin Annette Verniest. Pallbearers were George's family: Paul, Denis, Joseph, Aaron and Edward Hutlet and Ron Paddock. Funeral Pall was spread over their Dad's casket by Georgette Hutlet and Suzanne Paddock.
Interment was in the St. Gerard Parish Cemetery. Flowers gratefully declined, however donations may be made in George's memory to the Cypress River & Area Foundation, Box 86, Cypress River MB R0K 0P0.